Author's Note: So I kind of lied...without meaning to. I couldn't just leave poor Matthew and Mary hanging like that. So I had to keep writing and writing and writing and all of a sudden this chapter was finished. I thought about holding back but I guess I don't have much self control. Plus I wanted you to see how their conversation went. It's a bit of a bumpy ride.


Chapter Five

She wasn't long. She came back down the stairs in her bare feet, a few pieces of hair falling out of the braid down her back. He realized he'd never seen her hair down before or her feet without stockings and shoes or boots. Who are you, he wondered, and why is it that it's you I keep coming back to.

She sat in her same place, folded her hands in her lap. "Thank you for waiting," she said very politely. Her shoulders were back, her chin up. She wasn't relaxed in the slightest; this was the farthest thing from a visit between old friends, or even distant cousins. But he could remember kissing her, sitting so close and then moving closer and closer at that small table until he was sure that he had to kiss her, that she wanted to, and they moved into one another, her hands in his hair, on his neck, his, thrillingly on her waist, her hips. He could remember dancing with her alone in a room, his hand torturously betraying any good intentions he had, pulling her closer and closer until there was nothing between them but their clothes not even air, and then again kissing her thinking that if it was the last time he kissed her...

"Why didn't you want to see me?" And apparently she did know him better than he knew himself because his voice was raised, not loud enough to wake the baby, but loud enough for them both to know that he was angry and that they were going to quarrel, exactly as she predicted.

"I wasn't lying when I said before that there were many reasons," she paused, weighing her words. "I really don't know where to start."

"Oh, it's so complicated then? Your dislike of me? Your reasons for lying to me?" he replied sarcastically, leaning forward, though they were still a room apart. "There's just so much to it?"

"Yes," she said. "It is. And I don't know why you're surprised when everything, and Matthew, I mean everything has been complicated between us from the very start."

"Why didn't you want to see me?" he asked again, through his teeth.

"I was tired," she said calmly, pushing back the little hairs near her face.

"You were tired?" he repeated, slowly, as if she was teaching him a new language.

"Yes!" she snapped and for the first time she finally was actually angry instead of just simmering. "I was so tired of us, Matthew. I was tired of the the angst and the longing glances and quiet conversations in the corner of the room. I was tired of wanting you and you wanting me but neither one of us doing anything about it. I was tired of your dramatics, your constancy to a dead girl that frankly, you didn't pay nearly as much attention to while she was alive. I was tired of both your heroics and your cowardice. I was tired of you faulting me for the fact that you wanted me. And yes, I was very, very tired of being put in the box of Lady Mary who could bear any slight, any insult, any heartbreak."

He literally couldn't find his voice for several minutes after her tirade stopped. "That's quite a speech."

One side of her mouth quirked up and she leaned back against the couch as if she really was tired, even in just rehashing it, let alone living it. "You know that's exactly what Mama said when she came here to see me, entreating me to see you, and I told her a version of the same thing I've just told you."

"You've hated me, no really despised me, for a quite a long time then," he said, voice hoarse.

"Oh, Matthew," she whispered, pressing her lips together to keep them from trembling. His own words, spoken so long ago, were out of her mouth before she could stop them. "I never would...I never could despise you."

She waited a few moments, minutes really before continuing. "But it wasn't just me anymore, Matthew. There was Gracie to think of and I had to think of her. I had to because I...knew what it felt like not to be thought of and I never wanted her to feel that way."

"You could have told me," he pleaded, as if they could go back in time. "I would have..."

"Proposed?" she laughed but it wasn't a happy laugh and quite suddenly she was crying over something she hadn't cried over in such a long time. "I thought you might, knowing you as well as I do. And I thought, how ironic, how funny really," her voice broke and he winced, "that all I had to do to finally marry the man I loved was get myself raped."

Matthew stood quickly, turning his back to her, sticking his hands in his pockets. She knew him so well and yet, with his face hidden, she could not even guess his expression or his thoughts. "I didn't want that for me. I didn't want that for the baby," Mary whispered. "And I didn't want it for you either."

"What about what I wanted?"

She wanted to go to him then, wrap her arms around his middle, and press her cheek to his back. It was such a strange impulse considering since she'd seen him yesterday she'd wanted him gone. "But you see Matthew," she continued to whisper. One must whisper when standing on sacred ground. "But you see, we could have kept going around you and I, back and forth."

"But there was Grace," he said. He was so still, so controlled, his back, still to her, so straight. And it made her ache because she knew what it cost a person to be that still. She knew exactly. She stood, even took a few steps towards him.

"Yes," she said. "There was Grace."

She wanted to touch him but couldn't remember how, not just because it was Matthew but because it had been so long since she'd touched, really touched, anyone other than Grace. "I really wanted to avoid having this conversation. Ever."

He laughed a little and hung his head. "Well I can't imagine why."

"But," and she took another step closer to him. There was only a meter between them now unbeknownst to Matthew with his back turned. "But maybe it's better this way."

"Better?"

"Maybe it's like lancing a wound, finally getting everything out, finally saying it. We both made such mistakes, Matthew, both of us."

"Me more than you, obviously," he said without irony and quite suddenly turned around, surprised to see her so close.

"No," she insisted, her voice sure. "No, because I never told you that you were hurting me. So how could you know? I was very proud." She paused, her lip trembling much as her daughter's had the day before when Matthew had wondered if it was possible to fall in love with a baby he'd just met. "And then I was humbled beyond belief, laying there in my corset and ruined dress, a bloody mess, just ruined..."

He moved to her in one instant, his hands on her face, his thumbs brushing at tears. "No," he said. Just no.

She was trembling. She was anything other than still when she brought her hands to the crooks of his bent elbows, and held on. They stood like that, holding one another, but just barely, for a very long time.


Author's Note: Please, I'm really asking your opinion on this. Do you think Mary was justified in all/some/none of what she was saying? Was it really better to get it all out on the open? Where do they go from here?